I was named for the season that killed Ronan Graves.
Well, okay, my naming and Ronan’s death aren’t that closely related. When my mother first saw my flaming, screaming face, she didn’t think, “I should call her Winter so hopefully, someday, some poor boy will dedicate his suicide to her.” At least, I hope she didn’t mean to foreshadow his demise.
But I am Winter, and Ronan died in the snowiest December of the past century: I’m sort of stuck with this inescapable reminder of how I killed him.
I never meant to kill him. Technically, I didn’t. If this were a standoff, I wouldn’t be the guy cocking the gun and emptying a barrel into Ronan’s chest. No, I’d be the bleary-eyed damsel huddled nearby, sobbing, ashamed of her own helplessness. But that doesn’t make me any less guilty.
The Monday after Ronan died, about halfway through ninth period, as Alia fixed her lip gloss in the reflection of her phone and Oliver nuzzled my neck, the ancient speakers in the front of the room spurted out a beep. Miss Locke snapped to the class for the billionth time to calm it down a notch, but we didn’t. We never did.
Then came the gruff voice of Principal Bates crackling through the static: “Please pardon the interruption…”
Alia leaned in close, crushing me beneath the sticky scent of her perfume. “I wonder who died,” she whispered, giggling, because she didn’t know. She didn’t see that empty desk in the back corner of the classroom, right next to the support column, where an enigmatic boy could rest his head and shut his eyes and disappear for awhile.
“I’m deeply saddened to report that, over the weekend, we lost a dear, dear member of the school community.”
“I hope it was ol’ Troy,” Oliver mumbled into my collarbone. “Bastard won’t quit bugging me about running track this spring.” Oliver’s tongue left a glistening patch on my pale skin. I wiped the slime away.
“Please join me,” Bates continued, voice tight, “in a moment of silence for the memory of our beloved Ronan Graves.”
And so there was silence.
We were frozen, every one of us, like there had been a simultaneous shock to all of our hearts at once. Like time had paused or glitched or something. Miss Locke grazed her eyes to that empty desk, the flushness fading from her cheeks, but she didn’t cry. No one did. None of us had a reason to.
As the moment drained like an hourglass and Ms. Locke prepared her obligatory death-and-dying speech, I was the one to finally smash the silence. The snow was falling weightlessly, and everything was beautiful and quiet, and I’d never hated Ronan more.
He wasn’t the boy to crawl into my mind and lodge himself there, nagging until I finally gave in and grinned. Hell, I barely even knew Ronan. We were strangers with nothing more in common than the grating air we breathed. What right did he have to die in the most perfect season? In my season? These last few days of school before Christmas vacation would surely be bleak now, with everyone sniffling about that dumb dead kid.
What a selfish bastard to wreck my season like that.
My body shook, and the thin line of silence sliced through me, so I gazed out the window at the spiraling flurries and said to the snow, loud enough for all to hear, “Who the fuck does Ronan Graves think he is?”
Because I didn’t know, either. I didn’t know that he killed himself, or that I was a cause to it. In that moment, I didn’t care. This was before everything. Before Rhys and his blackmail. Before I fell in love with the Graves.
This was before I started melting.